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Passover Appeal (Direct Mailing)


March 14, 2008
21st of Adar, 5764

"Let all who are hungry, enter and eat." (Haggadah)

Dear Friend,

When one thinks about Israel, the images usually conjured up in our heads are suicide bombs, busses blown to smithereens, families mourning their loved ones killed in terror attacks, male and female soldiers fighting the never-ending violence of the Intifada, and katusha rockets exploding on Jewish settlements.

There is a far more insidious threat ripping Israel apart today and yet we do not read or hear much about it in the media. This threat affects many more Israelis than terror does. This situation is so dire that many believe that it challenges the very survival of the State of Israel. Poverty has become the number one, formidable foe of the people of Eretz Yisroel.

The results of research undertaken by the National Insurance Institute (NII) in Israel revealed in October last year that the proportion of Israeli families living below the poverty line rose to 18.1 per cent in 2002, including some 618,000 children. This means that 1,321,000 people - some 396,000 households - survived on an amount lower than half the median national salary. Even more alarming, the number percentage of Israeli children living below the poverty line rose from 26.9 per cent in 2001 to a staggering 28.1 per cent in 2002. In simple terms; one out of every five Israelis is poor, and one out of every three Israeli children is poor.

The newly released data reflects the growth in unemployment in 2002 as well as the sharp cutbacks in NII stipends, the majority of which were reduced by as much as 4 per cent. Child benefits were cut by 15 per cent, tougher criteria were set for qualification for unemployment benefits, and supplementary income allowances were also cut. All these reductions and cutbacks hit the already poor populations the hardest, causing total devastation to the lives of those already struggling to survive.

Already, this poverty report is out of date and does not reflect the growing numbers of newly poor. Said Amir Peretz, chairman of the Histadrut (Israel's largest Trade Union), "The only thing that is flourishing in Israel is the number of poor and soup kitchens." Other political leaders have stated that poverty has evolved into the greatest strategic danger to the continued existence of the State of Israel.

Yad Eliezer is currently the largest anti-hunger agency in Israel, and it struggles to confirm and fulfill the many requests for assistance that it receives every day. Yad Eliezer provides critical assistance to over 50,000 people in 17 cities across Israel. Their services include food assistance in the form of monthly food pantry packages, weekly cooked meals for the infirm, a big brother program for 1000 youngsters, provision of infant formula for children who cannot nurse, job training, counseling, used appliance and furniture delivery, a specialized tutoring program for underprivileged children, provision of emergency funding in catastrophic situations, and much more. Its more than 10,000 volunteers work ceaselessly and devotedly to improve the lives of Israel's ever-growing, poverty-stricken population. But the demand for assistance is overwhelming.

Yad Eliezer leverages a great deal of work from very few resources. Over 90% of Yad Eliezer's annual budget is funded by individual donation, many of them very small. The value of the assistance it offers annually amounts to approximately 10 million dollars. Each dollar donated to Yad Eliezer becomes at least $3 worth of goods and services to families who barely subsist. The staffing in Israel is kept to a minimum and in the States there are no fixed fundraising costs, no office and no salaried employees. All moneys raised goes straight to the people who need it most - the Israeli poor. The ongoing challenge for Yad Eliezer is to expand to meet the increasing need for help and yet maintain its unique approach of compassion, effectiveness and honesty.

In a couple of weeks, on the 14th of Nissan (corresponding to April 5), we celebrate the festival of our freedom - Pesach. At the Seder itself we offer an invitation to the needy when we say ha lachma anya (this, matzo, is poor man's bread). This opening the door of our home opens the door of our mouth. We go on to speak the words of Magid (the Telling): we learn its Torah, sing its songs and say its Hallel (praise of God). Pesach is a time where Jews the world over tries to reenact and revive that heady sensation of freedom and closeness to Hashem that we experienced on that first Pesach night.

Sadly, for many, Pesach can be a time of greater hardship and a reminder of the elusiveness and impossibility of freedom from their miserable circumstances. For countless Jewish homes in Israel, poverty makes them feel shackled to a painful existence, with no sign of liberty in sight!

Please help Yad Eliezer to free the thousands of Israelis shackled by their poverty so that they too might rejoice in the Pesach holiday. Support Yad Eliezer by joining in the mitzvah of the age-old custom of giving Maos Chittim/Kimcha D'pischa ("Kosher for Passover Flour") before Pesach to the poor to enable them to afford all their Passover needs. The idea behind this custom it is that it was hard to find "Kosher for Passover" flour to buy during the holiday, so poor people who lived on a day-to-day basis would not have food to eat on Pesach, because there would be no flour to buy to bake matzoth with. Hence began the custom to distribute flour before Pesach. Today, most people don't bake their own matzoth, so maos chittim has been adjusted to meet the needs of the poor people of today.

It is said that before Pesach there are two types of people: Those who give maos chittim and those who get. In other words, anyone who can is obligated to help the needy meet his or her holiday expenses.

The determined goal of Yad Eliezer this Pesach is to make every Israeli man, woman and child taste freedom on Pesach. Supported by people like you Yad Eliezer will endeavor to provide Israeli's poor with a memorable Pesach they can truly celebrate and savor. By performing the mitzvah of maos chittim, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that through you, another needy Israeli family will be bestowed a sense of deliverance this Pesach. Indeed, the essence of the Passover story is a journey from slavery into freedom, from darkness into light. By helping a poor Israeli family, you are releasing them from the slavery of their poverty and darkness of their daily struggles, into the light, into the freedom, however temporary, of festive celebration.

In the zechus of this wonderful mitzvah, may you and yours be blessed with a wonderful chag kasher vesameach, and may all of us be granted our fervent wish of L'shana Haba'ah B'Yerushlayim - next year in Jerusalem!

Very truly yours,

Sori Tropper
American Friends of Yad Eliezer